Location Poll Results #amwriting

Last week, I asked if readers wanted locations to be 100% authentic or not. Eight people answered the poll, including Dan Antion, who answered in the comments (there’s always one, i’n’t there?).

Half of the respondents said they wanted everything to be 100% invented! A quarter of them said they wanted things to be kinda-sorta authentic, and one said to make it authentic for the time it was written, even if things have changed.

Dan wants everything to be exactly, currently true. If we were having a beer, I’d buy him another one and pat him gently on the arm.

So what about location? The obvious choices:

Make it all up

Imagine a town. Invent the shops, layout, suburbs, inhabitants. Draw maps. Most traditional fantasy authors and science fiction authors do this, although I’m told some have taken this or that ancient or medieval city as a model.

Pretend you made it all up

Take a real town — in whatever place or whatever time period — and change all the names and swap around the locations of things.

Play with reality

Take an actual town, use its name, its actual layout, its landmark businesses, but add or subtract or otherwise fiddle with stuff for the purpose of your story. People who are familiar with the location may resent your taking liberties. Just sayin’.

Just the facts, ma’am

If you can’t research the location directly (Why, yes, Mr. IRS man, that 10-day cruise to the Bahamas was a business expense; why do you ask?), you can use maps, Google Earth, local gov/business/blogger websites to get close to your setting. Chances are, you can find folks on social media who live in your target location who will be glad to give you local color.

Is that last one okay? Can I use realio, trulio places in my fiction?

Miss Stephanie, on the terrific site Self-Published Authors Helping Other Authors, says yes.

And there’s another possibility that goes along with all the others:


In the front of the book, tell the reader why you chose the location you did, why you made any changes you made, apologize for tweaks or errors, explain that you used a version of the location you knew in your youth or that you wish were the case (no toll bridges in Louisville, for instance). Me, I love to read authors’ ‘splanations.

A WRITING PROMPT FOR YOU: Look in your favorite book. What are its primary settings? How do the settings work with the characters and plot? If somebody forced the author to change a setting, how would that affect the book?



I was born in Louisville, Kentucky, but now live in the woods in southern Indiana. Though I only write fiction, I love to read non-fiction. The more I learn about this world, the more fantastic I see it is.

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One thought on “Location Poll Results #amwriting

  1. Dan

    January 2, 2017 at 7:08am

    In fairness to Dan, he tends to write a bit more toward the history side of the line than the fiction side. But, he’s generally not gonna pick.

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  2. Jane

    January 2, 2017 at 10:27am

    I appreciate this discussion bunches.
    I recall a story set in Baltimore, and I really couldn’t see why. Just saying.
    A story I just read is set in St Louis around St Charles. It had a bit too much driving around street names, which didnt actually form pictures about where they were going. So: too much detail, I’d say.
    Taking everything into account, I’m feeling solid about my story choices and know what to do in the next stories, as well.
    Thanks, all.

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  3. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt

    January 2, 2017 at 3:52pm

    Mix – and explain.

    There are reasons for not using the name of a church or parish, for example, unless you want to check out their burial practices in 2005.

    Most people who know Princeton would recognize the church – but I could play with some of the details I needed to change, and I didn’t have to go talk to the pastor.

    Stay true where possible, adjust where necessary, and I think I did explain (will go check one of these days).

    Whatever is necessary NOT to destroy the willing suspension of disbelief for 1) readers who’ve been there, and 2) readers who will never go there.

    Typical fiction writing on the knife’s edge, author making all the decisions (indie).

    And leave NOTHING behind worth anyone’s time to sue you over!

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  4. Joey

    January 2, 2017 at 5:00pm

    I took what I wanted and put it in made up places, so I, too, appreciate the responses.

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    • Author
      • Joey

        January 2, 2017 at 7:14pm

        I have unfinished bookS. I am glad to know you’d read me. 😀

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  5. A.C.Flory

    January 3, 2017 at 4:54am

    -grin- In my latest story I created a digital world from which tourists could go visit a digital Petra [in Jordan]. Had a lot of fun researching the real Petra coz it’s a place I would give my left arm to visit. And it worked well in the story too. 🙂

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    • Author

      Marian Allen

      January 3, 2017 at 7:55am

      I would go (virtually) in a heartbeat! And I’m coming to read your post, and I expect it to be a bar joke. Fair warning.

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